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2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards

2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award


Inspired by the many Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, we took the our main logo and transformed it into a new Hex Sign that will be used as this year’s award.

The year of 2014 has been blessed with vegan food almost being mainstream reflected by many central Pennsylvania’s restaurant menus. This year’s winners are all local, limited to the counties that are touched by the keystone center of our state (illustrated at the bottom of this page.) The 2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards recognize the year’s best vegetarian foods available by highlighting a few menu items from restaurants we have been able to visit. The annual Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards and past winners are described in further detail at this link.

This year, the categories include region’s best Appetizer, Chili, Veggie Burger, Portobello, Soup, Specials, and Vegetarian Restaurant. Extra focus is put on those restaurants that use local ingredients and create as much as possible in-house.

BEST APPETIZER
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014AppHVBC_App_2014Just celebrating it’s first anniversary, Happy Valley Brewing Company takes the award for Best Appetizer for the second year in a row. The Mason Jar again takes this award for the perfect veggie appetizer. Appropriately priced and presented with thematic class, The Mason Jar’s “House Pickled Seasonal Vegetables” are served with a side of locally baked Gemelli crackers. The sweet yet sour brine and the the lightly pickled veggies come out in a short mason jar and frequently reflect the season. Thinly sliced root vegetables are mixed in with a green beans, a couple baby onions and sweet pepper slices that enhance seasoning. The toothsome cracker on the side are great on their own or dipped directly into the pickle juice. It stands exactly as I described in 2013, what an appetizer should be, not a meal on its own but something to get your ready for the quality of the entrees that you can expect. The Mason Jar is great to nibble on with a great beverage but sets you up for wanting to taste more on the menu.

BEST CHILI
Bullfrog Brewery
Williamsport, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014Chilibullfrog_chili_2014 Unbeaten from 2013 is Bullfrog Brewery for Best Chili this year. Their Habanero Veggie Chili is house made and has enough spice to call it a chili. Another outstanding brew pub in Pennsyltucky, the recipe uses it’s flavorful beer to add a pleasant depth of flavor. I love wandering through the lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans and enjoy the tomato chunks, onions, celery and carrot shreds that balance out the best vegetarian chili in our region. I love it piled on their nachos, sitting atop their Veggie Chili Salad or a nice bowl topped with soy cheese.

BEST VEGGIE BURGER
Yorkholo Brewing Co.
Mansfield, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014Burger_YorkholoYorkholo_burger_2014It is rare to enter a pub or even diner that now doesn’t have some version of a veggie burger. Many brew pubs are using their spent grain and have really stepped up their house made burgers. This made me have to return for second tastings to at least 3 restaurant. Third year consecutive, Yorkholo Brewing Co. is the best. Their Black Bean and Spent Grain Veggie Burger beat the close second offered by Gamble Mill in Bellefonte. Yorkholo’s burger of black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onions blended with spent grain, peppers & bread crumbs is still best in all of central Pennsylvania. Congratulations Yorkholo Brewing Co. for streaking this annual award!

BEST PORTOBELLO
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014PortoHVBC_porto_2014I blanched when I saw that Happy Valley Brewing Company had changed the name of their award winning sandwich. ‘Shroom with a View looked the same on it’s grilled sourdough bread. It is a huge sammich decorated with awesome sprouts and frisée but would the sliced mushrooms still steal the show? I was thrilled, they are still brightly marinated then pleasantly complicated by oregano and grilling with a grounded smokiness. Juicy and firm with grilled tomatoes and with or without the blue cheese aioli, these mushrooms are winners. Again, the Best Portobello I have ever eaten.

BEST SOUP
The Green Harvest Co.
Bedford, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014SoupGreen_Harvest_soupThis was a difficult year to compare soups because the days I chose to visit certain restaurants they were out of their vegetarian options. I can’t judge what I can’t eat and I do love soup. Pretty consistent in offering vegetarian and frequently vegan soups, The Green Harvest Co. has had many outstanding soups this year. Creamed Butternut Squash was a warm autumn puree, the Asian Soup was a clear broth with mushrooms and great spicing and they had a super Gazpacho this past summer. Knowing just how to get the best out of blending seasonings, grains, beans and veggies in a simple broth can be tricky but The Green Harvest Co. has done it consistently this year.

BEST SPECIALS
Otto’s Pub & Brewery
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014SpecialsOttos_Specials_2014Nothing sets my tummy grumbling in anticipation like Wednesday Specials at Otto’s Pub & Brewery. Thier regualr menu has pleanty to offer every day but the vegetarian and vegan specials have stepped up even from years past. The well plated and perfectly prepared Crunchy Vegan Tacos are represented in this photo but it is every single week they have different delights to look forward to. Vegetarian specials of this caliber are found regularly in Philly or New York but that is quite a drive from central PA. I feel really blessed to live close enough to enjoy Wednesday specials at Otto’s Pub & Brewery.

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
The Seed
Lancaster, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014Veg1002682_667149683344232_3346396352365255284_nFor the second year running, The Seed again wins the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in central PA!

This worker owned collective is thriving in Lancaster with Pizza and Games night, monthly sandwich specials, live music and progressive cause support. It is a spot where everyone feels welcome, cared for and can get a great, meat-free, meal.

The food is always fresh and well thought out. The sides are always a real treat and the Bahn Mi Chay was wonderful. (I wasn’t able to get photos this year but am representing from the ones I took last year and a couple from their Facebook page.)

The Seed has grown into a solid haven for vegetarians and those who love great food. The truly deserve the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the central PA.The-Seed

Congratulations to all 2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award winners! See links below map if you want to be considered for 2015.
PAcoMap_mostDo you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant or menu item that you think should be considered in 2015? If it’s in central PA (see map above) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, PLEASE let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment on any of the awards pages!

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2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards

2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

Inspired by the many Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, we took the our main logo and transformed it into a new Hex Sign that will be used as this year’s award.

This year has seen another huge increase in central Pennsylvania’s vegetarian and vegan restaurant choices. The winners are all local, limited to the counties that are touched by the keystone center of our state (illustrated at the bottom of this page.) The 2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards recognize the year’s best vegetarian foods available by highlighting a few menu items from restaurants we have been able to visit. The annual Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards and past winners are described in further detail at this link.

This year, the categories include region’s best Appetizer, Bakery, Chili, Veggie Burger, Portobello, Soup, Specials, and Vegetarian Restaurant. Extra focus is put on those restaurants that use local ingredients and create as much as possible in-house.

BEST APPETIZER
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013AppHVBC_AppOpening in the last quarter year, Happy Valley Brewing Company takes the award for Best Appetizer. With choices on their young menu listed as “Killer Apps” and “Pub Grub” vegetarians don’t want to overlook what they also have listed as “Sides.” The huge warm Jumbo Pretzels and the plate of Rosemary Garlic Fries are both impressive but it is The Mason Jar that takes this award. Nicely priced and presented in style, The Mason Jar’s “House Pickled Seasonal Vegetables” come out with a side of locally baked Gemelli crackers. In a brine that is not too tart nor syrupy, the lightly pickled veggies come out in a squat mason jar and are as varied as a hand full of gems from Aladdin’s cave. Turnips, green beans, and other thinly sliced root vegetables are snuggled in with a few capers, garlic cloves, baby onions and hot peppers that provide seasoning. The dense cracker makes for a pleasing vehicle or dipped directly into the pickle juice. It is what an appetizer should be, far more than an amuse-bouche but not a meal on its own. The Mason Jar is great by itself and makes you want to order more from the rest of the menu.

BEST BAKERY
Spruce Creek Bakery
Spruce Creek, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013BakerySPB_cakeI think it was about 3 years ago we took my parents to Spruce Creek Bakery’s first open house. They impressed us as genuinely pleasing individuals and we were excited for their new business. Mid 2012 I learned that they were regularly making vegan doughnuts and I treated myself to a couple after my first 16 mile training run and was really impressed. Since then, they have started regularly suppyling weekly vegan delights to at least one State College restaurant (Otto’s Pub and Brewery on Wednesdays). From pumpkin and apple pies to vegan cheese cakes and chocolate torts, Spruce Creek Bakery has never failed to please the vegan palette. We find ourselves eating dessert first on Wednesdays! Call ahead to see what they have in their shop that is vegan or gluten free.

BEST CHILI
Bullfrog Brewery
Williamsport, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013ChiliBullfrog_Chili Consistently outstanding for years, Bullfrog Brewery takes the award for Best Chili this year. Their Habanero Veggie Chili is house made and has an initial pleasant beer flavor that adds a really special quality to it. Be aware, the heat grows on you! Spicy enough that you notice but so flavorful that you keep dipping your spoon back in for more. The lentils, black beans, garbanzos, tomato chunks, onions, celery and carrot shreds balance out the spiciest vegetarian chili in our region. We have enjoyed it piled on their nachos and sitting atop their Veggie Chili Salad (yes – salad!)

BEST VEGGIE BURGER
Yorkholo Brewing Co.
Mansfield, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013BurgerYorkholo-BurgerWhen we give an award, it is my goal to try to find something that can beat it the next year. What a treat it was to return to Yorkholo Brewing Co. this year to find they had added so many more vegetarian menu items. They were all very good with the Tofu Bites being a real hit at our table. Determined not to be distracted, it was my focus was to see if their Black Bean and Spent Grain Veggie Burger would still beat out the same contenders. It was additionally tough coming up against Chef Andrew Monk’s new Quarter Pound Beet Burger and tres jolie Vegan Sliders that the Nittany Lion Inn from State College had debuted in early summer. Yorkholo’s burger of black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onions blended with spent grain, peppers & bread crumbs were exactly as I remembered, best in all of central Pennsylvania. Congratulations Yorkholo Brewing Co. for holding on to your title!

BEST PORTOBELLO
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013PortoHVBC_portoOnly my husband knows how many portobello sandwiches and salad toppers I have eaten over the past few years. Always trying to find one better than the reigning champion, if a restaurant in central PA has a portobello on their menu I am obliged to try it even if I am not in the mood. Some are nicely marinated but lack something, a few have been grilled just right but the seasoning was flat or nonexistent. This was an award that I thought was certainly going to the same restaurant (Luna 2 Woodgrill) for the third year in a row. Just before Halloween, Happy Valley Brewing Company opened and what do I see on their menu? A Grilled Portabella Sandwich. It was with little hope that I raised the sourdough sandwich with roasted tomatoes, sprouts, and pickled onion and grilled mushroom to my mouth. I took a bite, as did my husband. We looked at each other with wide eyes and I started to cry. I know it sounds like the silliest thing but our waiter saw it and probably thought I was a bit crazy. I was crying over the passing of the title of an old champion to a new one. It was the Best Portobello I have ever eaten and I have returned to sample it more than 3 times since. Seasoned and woodgrilled like the winner of years past but a serious notch above. It is honestly like a vegetarian steak that has been marinated cooked to perfection.

BEST SOUP
Cherry Alley Cafe
Lewisburg, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013SoupCherry_Alley_SoupIt is hard to compare soups; a Pumpkin Curry Bisque is very different from a Chilled Gazpacho. In categories like Best Soup we have to consider if a restaurant has vegetarian soup that is regularly offered. This year, no restaurant in central PA guaranteed a house made vegetarian soup every day it was open. What we had to do was then compare how regularly it was available and the quality of what was served when we could get it. Cherry Alley Cafe has only once not had a vegetarian soup and I had called ahead (as their menu suggests) therefore we did not waste a trip. Each soup I have had there has been proper temperature, served quickly and been delicious! I know that not every veggie soup Cherry Alley Cafe serves is vegan but it has been my luck that they have been when I visit. The soup in the photo is a vegan White Bean, Tomato & Kale Soup that had big slices of nutty garlic in it and seasoned with the perfect amount of thyme. It was a chilly day and it blissfully warmed me to my toes.

BEST SPECIALS
Otto’s Pub & Brewery
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013SpecialsOttos_SpecialsIf I could take up this whole post with the very best photos of vegan food I have eaten out all year, it would be of the many weekly Wednesday Specials at Otto’s Pub & Brewery. Trying to decide on just one photo that represents all of the varied menu items and flavors that Otto’s presented this past year was difficult (and had me drooling as I viewed them). Stuffed Peppers, House Made Kale Chips, Tempeh Fajitas and Tacos, as well as Deep-fried Vegan Raviolis photos were like a virtual gustatory trip down memory lane. I settled on Collard-style Kale with Red Beans and Rice. It was a dish that fit the large white plate well and the choices were complimentary. The starch was well-chosen to balance the collard style dressing on the well massaged kale as they do in true southern cooking. I would have to travel well outside of my dear Pennsyltucky region to find vegetarian specials like these. Wednesdays at Otto’s Pub & Brewery are like a vacation without having to leave our own region.

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
The Seed
Lancaster, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013VegSeedSammichToo new to rate last year, let’s welcome The Seed to our region with hearty congratulations for being the Best Vegetarian Restaurant! By starting with an Indigogo campaign, this collective of individuals brags to being the “First and only worker owned and operated community space and vegetarian cafe. “

What we found was a real haven for anyone wanting a casual, meat-free space with young pleasant staff that is ready, willing and able to veganize any sandwich you order. They have multiple tea blends, organic kombucha on tap and an answer for any question I could come up with without taking the conversation over with their own agenda. The bright and clean dining and communing area has ample comfortable seating and is on the second floor. It has a walk up sandwich counter with a pleasant and casually disarming staff. The walls are decorated with local art for sale and shelves stocked with books and a Twister game that could be played on their brightly colored floors. The Wifi is free with a password and the climate was well controlled with ceiling fans and air conditioning. The edgy Indie rhythms rounded out a bit of a hipster mood but us old-timers felt very welcome. Shoot, any local place that brags that it will soon be composting gets my attention.Seed_Rueben

The food was fresh and very flavorful. The portions were decent and the prices very reasonable. The above right photo is a veganized version of their Cuban Sandwich. It was a pannini pressed sandwich which was crusty and warm healthy portions of thick seitan, sour pickles melty Daiya Mozzerella, a nice smear of mustard. We also got The Reuben (photo left) which was also heated on the panini press. It was on a seeded rye with a nice ratio of components, Daiya Mozzerella, multiple thin slices of warm tofu, a Russian dressing, and sauerkraut. The side of Cucumber Salad that came with each was fresh, light and well made. It wasn’t a cop-out like a few carrot sticks or small bunch of grapes. Every component was well prepared.The-Seed

Last year The Seed was planted and it has now grown into the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the central PA. Well done!
The Seed on Urbanspoon

Congratulations to all 2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award winners! See links below map if you want to be considered for 2014.
PAcoMap_mostDo you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant or menu item that you think should be considered in 2014? If it’s in central PA (see map above) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment on any of the awards pages!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Restaurant

ElkCreekCafe_pan

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awarded, Best Restaurant 2011

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awarded, Best Restaurant 2011

What a splendid year of dining out 2011 has been. Sometimes accompanied by our friends and family, Jim and I have tasted foods from all over this region (see map here). The most difficult part was when we interrupted our dining experiences to actually photograph, write down, and try to subjectively judge the food and restaurants. We hope that the sharing of it has been interesting, maybe even helpful, for a few veggie folks who may want to eat out in this area.

Elk Creek Café + Aleworks, mentioned as noteworthy in the Vegetarian Specials award this year, is the winner of Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 – Best Restaurant. This is the second year running they have won for best overall restaurant.

Turnip + Lentil Stew with Roasted Beets

Turnip + Lentil Stew with Roasted Beets

Innkeeper of this laudable restaurant in Millheim is Tim Bowser and he has crafted the perfect balance of color, flare, seasoning, rhythm and down home goodness all under one roof. The feel of the place is hospitable, everyone from granny to toddler is welcome, and every member of the staff treat the customers with care and high regard. Assistant General Manager Genny Uhl sees to everyone’s needs with gentle conduct and a caring smile.

If live entertainment is your thing, there are high quality performers brought in a few times every week and celebrations that embrace local events. Art buffs can look forward to receptions or enjoy the works of art displayed on the cheerful main dining room walls. These are some of the pluses that have kept Elk Creek Café + Aleworks king of the heap.

The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar, Carlisle

The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar, Carlisle

It is true that there are other regional restaurants that have a rotation of quality local art, fine musical groups and outstanding staff. The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar in Carlisle is such a place that is a burning close second place for this 2012 award. Executive chef Pippa Calland can create culinary magic with local and sustainable resources that are regularly vegetarian and vegan. The interior is charming, a perfect place for the local balletomane soiree or family dinner celebrating their Dickinson grad’s accomplishments.

Elk Creek Cafe - Soba Noodle + Seaweed Salad Special

Elk Creek Cafe – Soba Noodle + Seaweed Salad

What still sets Elk Creek Café + Aleworks apart for 2012 is that it offers a more complete spectrum of hospitality for vegan, localvore foodie, pub hanger, and city slicker all under the same roof. World travelers and sophisticated diners have been known to choose the vegan bowl specials over what was offered on the regular menu because of Chef Mark Johnson’s carte du jour mojo. Such patrons share the same pleasure as the kiddos at the next table munching Belgian-style Hand-cut Fries and their parents marveling at the perfectly prepared Walleye Fillet on the plates the smiling server just placed in front of them.

It is only at Elk Creek Café + Aleworks these myriad diners can sit happily together and raise a glass of head brewer Tim Yarrington’s finest together. Bring your whole family out to celebrate this fine establishment’s 5th anniversary this month or go by yourself and cozy up to the friendly bar. Either way you will then personally be able to smile and know why this is the best stuff in Pennsyltucky, especially for us veggie folks. Cheers for winning the Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 – Best Restaurant!

BiNaH_Hex_2012RestaurantHave you enjoyed a restaurant better than Elk Creek Cafe? Share it with me so it can challenge the best for 2013! If it’s in central PA (see map here) let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Gaia_pana

Gaia_storefrontWinner of the 2012 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award for Best Vegetarian Restaurant is, Gaia Fresh Food Cafe in Carlisle. Gaia is more than its food menu. It is just as it claims, being a “warm comfortable community space to encourage joy and wellbeing.” Gaia_int2

Open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday and closed Sunday., the café is a spruced up two-story house at 57 W. Pomfret St. in Carlisle. The bright and cheerfully painted exterior is but a hint of the color you will see inside. The colorful interior walls are background to some local artwork that is for sale. Just after the entry hall, the open kitchen will greet you with its menu boards written in luminous chalk.Tea_Scookie

The limited but satisfying menu is all vegetarian and almost all of the ingredients are raw. Fruit smoothies are created with fresh frozen fruits and no added sugar. The menu includes options like Thai Marinated Cucumbers with mangoes and scallions or Brown Rice with Capers, parsley, basil and cilantro mixed with lemon juice and olive oil that can be to be enjoyed as salads, wraps or on a pita. Gaia has coffee, tea, wheatgrass shots and nibbles like some amazing hummus or black olive tapenade with crackers. All menu items are very modestly priced.Rice_caper_salad

Amicable owner George Catselis will make you feel like a long-lost friend as he serves up meals and snacks that are focused on being fresh and healthy. He was kind enough to show us that Gaia Fresh Food Cafe also has a maze of other common rooms. Study and meeting rooms, a family room created for parents with small children, an outdoor patio and even a meditation room.Gaia_meals

Free Wifi in the dining area and many of the other common rooms may be slow but the charm of the staff and well-chosen ingredients of the flavorful foods will fill your every moment. Gaia Fresh Food Cafe, open since June 2011, has been a welcome addition to our region. Check out what they have to offer by visiting their Facebook page or give a call and place your order ahead of time at 717-386-5323.

We will dearly miss Jayyid Harvest at its cute corner spot on Second Avenue in Harrisburg. It was the 2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award – Best Vegetarian Restaurant and our region’s only other strictly vegetarian restaurant but we are thrilled to recognize, support and enjoy Gaia Fresh Food Cafe as Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Vegetarian Restaurant.
BiNaH_Hex_2012VegHave you discovered another strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurant in Pennsyltucky? Good golly don’t keep it to yourself and let it be in the running for 2013! If it’s in central PA (see map here) let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Gaia Fresh Food Cafe on Urbanspoon

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Specials

Lovely, local, labeled, and low-cost; wrap your vegan head around this typical Wednesday menu of specials at Otto’s Pub and Brewery in State College.

SOUP OF THE DAY
Chilled Tait Farm Cantaloupe Soup (Vegan)
VEGETABLE OF THE DAY
Green Beans
CRISP FLAVOR
Blueberry
DRESSING OF THE WEEK
Greek (Vegan)

APPETIZER FEATURE — TEMPURA TOFU $8
(Vegan and Available All Day) Battered and Fried Tofu Served with a spicy Thai peanut sauce and a house grown lemon cucumber pickle.
Chef Recommended Pairing: Red Mo

LUNCH FEATURE — BBQ TEMPEH SANDWICH $9
(Vegan and Available All Day) Tempeh in sweet BBQ sauce. Served on a Pacifico Kaiser roll with jicama/pepper slaw. Served with choice of Fries, Salad or Vegetable.
Chef Recommended Pairing: Dubbel Ale

DINNER FEATURE #1 — BEAN CURRY $10
(Vegan and Available All Day) A medley of beans and garden vegetables simmered with Indian spices. Accompanied by jasmine rice.
Chef Recommended Pairing: Slab Cabin

DINNER FEATURE #2 — ISRAELI SALAD & FALAFEL PITA $10
(Vegan and Available All Day) Cucumbers, Heirloom Tomatoes and Sun Gold Tomatoes. Tossed in parsley, garlic, lemon juice, mint, and olive oil. Served in a pita with Hummus, alfalfa sprouts, and falafel.
Chef Recommended Pairing: Pilsener.

Otto’s Pub and Brewery – Spaghetti & Falafel Balls

Specials are just what they imply; they aren’t regularly on the menu and can be looked forward to on occasion. New restaurants and ones that are in the process of changing locations have enough difficulty in establishing their new menu and can delay the adding of specials for a while. Places like aardvark kafé do have occasional specials but they are still getting in the groove of even being open. As it turns out, this seems to have been the case with Otto’s Pub and Brewery when they moved to their new location a couple of years ago. Now settled in with Chef Pete and Sous Chef Steve at the helm, even their regular menu is rife with vegetarian and vegan food. It is the specials on Wednesday that are outstanding.
Elk Creek Cafe - Soba Noodle Salad Special

Elk Creek Cafe – Soba Noodle Salad Special

Zola- Vegan Chile Rellenos

Zola- Vegan Chile Rellenos

Still highly noteworthy this year is the 2011 winner of this award, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks with their supper time Vegan Bowl with grains, greens, root vegetables and perfect seasonal seasonings or a vegetarian creation that would always please our palettes. The focus on local and well crafted meals was so hard to beat, between Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks and Otto’s Pub and Brewery I think I gained 10 pounds in November trying to make my final decision. The great beer made it all go down very easily too. Add in some great vegan specials created at Zola New World Bistro this year and you can understand why my dedication to running goes hand in hand with dining, I run to eat.

Otto’s Pub and Brewery – Vegan Tostadas with Broccoli rabé

So now vegetarians can walk into a place and throw all caution to the wind by saying, “Give me the special!” This would be Wednesdays at Otto’s Pub and Brewery. They are clued in to what exactly differentiates vegetarian from vegan and sympathetic to cross-contamination. This will explain the lack of gluten free options. They take labeling their menu seriously and it means you can trust when it says it is vegan, it is.

Congratulations to Otto’s Pub and Brewery (most recent restaurant review here) for being awarded Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 Best Specials. They have made so many changes to the good for vegans and vegetarians, including options for their Pub Club dinners, we know that you won’t be disappointed to try the specials on Wednesday or many of the regular veggie choices too.BiNaH_Hex_2012SpecialsDo you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant’s specials that you think can beat Otto’s Pub and Brewery’s in 2013? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and has regular vegetarian specials, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Veggie Burger

Yorkholo Brewing Company – Black Bean & Spent Grain Veggie Burger

Yorkholo Brewing Company of Mansfield has a wonderful microbrewery and the region’s very best Veggie Burger of 2012. Their Black Bean & Spent Grain Veggie Burger has a very crispy exterior, served super hot, almost deep fried in its breadcrumb coating. The flavor is what makes it top-notch with minced black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onions combined with spent grain, green peppers is nicely seasoned. I loved the zippy Pico de Gallo on it and the roll was fresh and bread not too dense. The whole burger, although a tiny bit crumbly, has a great texture, well balanced flavors and is a good size. I got it without the provolone but that would enhance the burger even more.

The Green Room Bistro – Quinoa Burger grabbed 2nd place.

This year, I was able to sample quite a few house made veggie burgers in the over 20 counties we judge in the Pennsyltucky region. No matter what the presentation, restaurants that just heat up a commercial grade Gardenburger® Veggie Medley are never going to make the cut anymore.

Otto’s Pub and Brewery – 2011 Winner

From Mansfield to Carlisle, I reveled in the task of comparing so many well crafted burgers. Sadly, Harrisburg’s Appalachian Brewing Company’s Cucumber Garden Burger left me flat but the second place burger this year was in that same region. A big shout out goes to The Green Room Bistro and Juice Bar of Carlisle for their Green Room Veggie Burger. Made of black beans, forbidden rice, red onion, red & yellow peppers, cilantro, red quinoa, it can be made gluten free and vegan. Typically served on a whole grain ciabatta, you can even ask it to be topped with Daiya Cheese – delightful!

Yorkholo Brewing Company – Black Bean & Spent Grain Veggie Burger

The 2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie – Best Veggie Burger, Otto’s Pub and Brewery Vegetarian Walnut Burger, was also a main contender. The State College restaurant’s rice, black bean, and walnut based burgers are crafted in house and have a nice smoky and peppery flavor. I can’t go a week without plotting to eat one.

Two final honorable mentions go to the house made Ritchie Valen Burger at Retro Eatery in Philipsburg and the Spicy Black Bean Burger at Olde New York in State College with its unbeatable taste but not made in house.

Congratulations to Yorkholo Brewing Company of Mansfield and their Black Bean & Spent Grain Veggie Burger for being chosen to receive Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 Best Veggie Burger.

Do know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant’s veggie burger that you think can beat this one in 2013? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!
Yorkholo Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Chili

Allen Street Grill – Vegetarian Chili

Best Chili was added as a category this year because there are so many great vegetarian chili’s to choose from in our area. Allen Street Grill in State College has beat out the others with it’s Vegetarian Chili. It has a mild tomato base seasoned with ancho chili powder. Less brothy than the runner up and more consistent flavor wise, it is brimming with chunks of zucchini, carrot, red & green pepper, and onion that are just tender. They add in some kidney and black beans and top it with a garnish of fresh scallions. A hearty vegetarian chili for years whether you get a cup or as a base in the full blown Santa Fe Chili Bowl topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, tomato and onion and served with tortilla chips.

Bullfrog Brewery

With this region’s mild palate preferences, chili is rarely served very spicy unless by special request. Spiciest in the region is the second placed Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport. They have a beer infused Veggie Chili and the initial pleasant beer flavor adds a really special quality to it as the heat sneaks up on you. Like the chili at Allen Street Grill, it has a tomato base, veggies and beans but is less consistent in flavor because Chef Rico changes the recipe with the brews available on tap. We loved it when he made it with the Extra Fancy Stout. 

Elk Creek Café in Millheim as well as State College’s Otto’s Pub and Brewery and aardvark kafé and have all offered noteworthy vegan chilis but none have remained as regular menu selections. The latter and Selin’s Grove Brewing Co. of Selinsgrove both use a Textured Vegetable Protein in it for a toothsome texture and extra rib sticking bonus.

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Also noteworthy is Mad Mex for its tomatillo based Chick Pea Chili upon which you can opt for the vegan toppings of Tofutti Sour Supreme and Daiya Shreds. Bullfrog Brewery also has the vegan shreds as a choice.

I feel a bit more qualified than just a regular customer to judge this category having been awarded the mid-atlantic region’s second best for my vegan Pennsyltucky Chili. I feel so very happy to exclaim,”¡Felicidades! Allen Street Grill,” for being awarded Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 Best Chili. It is a chili all vegetarians can look forward to warming them through the winter and offering great flavor year round.

Have you tasted a better vegetarian chili than this one? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

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